(This is a guest post by Jennifer Tuttle, currently the PTA President of PS166Q, Henry Gradstein School, where her first grade son attends school in Astoria, Queens. She is also the Chair of the Department of Theatre and Speech at The City College of New York.)
As part of his agenda to reshape the DOE, Chancellor David Banks announced that he would seek to strengthen the role of the District Superintendents, placing more responsibility on the local level. “One thing DOE officials have made clear: they plan to give lots of credence to the views of parents, elected officials, and community members when selecting new superintendents.”
Last week, District 30’s social media pages erupted when it was announced that Dr. Philip Composto, who has held the position of Superintendent in the district for 14 years, as well as serving 42 years in the DOE as a teacher, teacher trainer, Principal, Special Education Supervisor and Deputy Superintendent of District 30 prior to taking over as Superintendent, would not be invited to be a finalist for the position that he currently holds. Parents, teachers and administrators alike were aghast at the decision and expressed their shock and anger at a decision that involved zero community input.
A petition was quickly established to show support for Dr. Composto, which has garnered almost 1200 signatures in just 15 hours. A rally was organized for Thursday evening, May 12 via Zoom by District 30 Community Education Council Member, Deborah Alexander, in support of Dr. Composto, as well. The District 30 Education Facebook group has encouraged a twitter campaign to #KeepComposto and an email campaign to write directly to Chancellor Banks and his Deputy, Desmond Blackburn, to inform them that “the community was not consulted, and we do not want to lose the best Superintendent in NYC.” Several schools in the district have amplified the message via social media and alerting their entire parent populations directly via email.
Chancellor Banks remarked in his vision for transforming and building trust in the NYC public school system that: “engaging families to be our true partners, which in and of itself is a powerful pathway to building trust,” and called this his 4th pillar of this vision. He promised a DOE, unlike his predecessor’s, that not only listened to, but wouldn’t make decisions without input from the communities impacted by those decisions.
I am the President of the PTA of PS166Q in Astoria, Queens. I’ve had the immense good luck to have worked on the PTA District 30 Presidents’ Council with Superintendent Dr. Philip Composto. In my experience, Dr. Composto has proven to be a kind, generous, fair-minded, capable leader who takes action, solves problems, listens to his community and does his job with incredible integrity. No one knows this District better than he does, and he is incredibly well respected by teachers, administrators and parents alike.
This DOE administration promised to listen to the voices in the schools and the parents and not make top down, authoritative decisions without parental and school involvement. That has not been honored in this incredibly important decision, and we would like the DOE to hold true to their promise and hear our voices in support of Dr. Composto.